UPDATE | Fire out at Pasco welding business after morning explosion. What we know
Three hours after an explosion shook a Pasco welding business, employees are figuring out what happened and cleaning up the mess.
By Tuesday afternoon firefighters had turned the building at 716 Oregon Ave. back over to the Spokane-based OXARC company, said Ben Shearer, the Pasco Fire Department public information officer.
Firefighters were called shortly before 10:20 a.m. for an explosion in a metal building where acetylene is manufactured. The production building contained only acetylene containers and the machine that makes it.
Acetylene is a flammable gas used in welding and doesn’t produce much smoke when it burns. It’s kept in canisters under pressure, and it can explode when exposed to high heat.
It’s not clear what sparked the fire.
One employee was working in the area when the explosion happened but was able to escape unharmed.
OXARC employees were evaluated by Pasco medics at the scene and one employee was taken to a local medical center to be checked further, said Shearer.
Much of the time battling the blaze was spent planning an approach to extinguish several burning containers of acetylene but not put fire crews at risk.
“The fire was complicated from the aspect that OXARC is a large supplier of many different gas products, some that do not care if they get wet and some react violently if they get wet,” Shearer said in a news release.
They worked with OXARC employees to determine where the acetylene was being stored and making sure the machinery that produced it was shut off.
Firefighters on the scene focused on making sure the heat and fire didn’t spread to other buildings.
“Once we knew what we were dealing with, everything went very quickly and efficiently,” Shearer said.
Shearer didn’t know how extensive the damage was to the building, but the business is shut down at the moment.
OXARC provides welding and industrial supplies and safety products and training from its 21 locations across the Northwest.
While there was some initial concerns about the smoke and acetylene in the air moving through East Pasco, Shearer said the gas had dissipated quickly. He said they are not aware of any public health issues.
There also wasn’t any chemical spills. Shearer said firefighters prevented water from going into the storm drains.
Oregon Avenue has opened after being shut between East A Street and East Lewis Street. It also sparked a brief lockdown at some nearby schools as a precaution.
The warm temperatures meant firefighters were being rotated in and out at the scene and then able to rest in a cooling area.
In all, 34 fire units helped at the fire, including crews from Pasco, Richland, Kennewick, Franklin County Fire District 3, Walla Walla Fire District 5, Benton County Fire districts 1 and 4, West Benton Fire Rescue and from the police and utility crews from Pasco and Franklin Emergency Management.